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Trump Endorses Jordan, Injecting Himself Into House Chaos; 52 Killed In Russian Missile Strike In Eastern City Of Hroza; President Biden Says Border Walls Don't Work As Administration Clears Way To Build More Barriers. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 06, 2023 - 05:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Tease the idea that he might be persuaded to step into the speaker job temporarily. That provoked varied reaction.


REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): It's done. I am nominating Donald J. Trump for Speaker of the House.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I think President Trump is the right guy for the job. I certainly would love to see him be Speaker of the House.

MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I don't think that'd be a good idea at all. I can't say I'm terribly surprised to see my former running mate injecting himself into this conversation.


HUNT: Mike Pence ever the under-stater.

Let's bring in Shelby Talcott, politics reporter for Semafor. Shelby, good morning. I thank you so much for being here.

Look, I just kind of want to stick with the politics of this for a second because the speaker's race, obviously, we have been talking about as a dogfight. It's not clear anyone can get to 218. My initial read -- and I'm -- you know, I'm up -- this happened around midnight. I've been up this morning asking sources, many of whom are still waking up.

But, I mean, my read is that this might create an unsurmountable situation for Steve Scalise, the number two, or anyone else that wanted to run against Jim Jordan just because, frankly, the support for Donald Trump in the House Republican Conference runs extremely deep.

SHELBY TALCOTT, POLITICS REPORTER, SEMAFOR: I think this is the ultimate question, right, and it's going to be how influential is Donald Trump? And we've seen he still is extremely influential. Now, with that said, I still do think there are a number of moderates who are still on the fence. There's a whole block of New York Republicans that both Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan are currently vying for. And so, I do think that there will still be somewhat of a fight but certainly, Trump's endorsement is going to help Jim Jordan with a significant sect of the Republican Party.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, the dynamics -- Trump's influence obviously is a very complicated thing, but if he has it anywhere it is really inside this House Republican Conference.

Now, of course, this is sure to make moderate Republicans nervous. And I think we should underscore that those moderates are the ones that make the majority for the Republican Party.

Can -- like, can we dig into that tension a little bit because I feel like moderates were the ones that were really being courted here initially, but this may kind of run them over?

TALCOTT: Yeah, and I do still think that they are being courted. Like I said, these -- this bloc --

HUNT: Yeah.

TALCOTT: -- of New York Republicans. The centrists in this party or the people who are considered the centrists -- they -- you know, moderates make up elections and so they are still extremely important.

And I actually think, in a way, they're going to become a little bit more important now that Trump has endorsed Jim Jordan for speaker because it's going to separate all of the rest of the faction of the Republican Party and you're going to be left with these people who genuinely want to be swayed and want to be convinced. Why should I vote for Scalise? Why should I vote for Jim Jordan? What are they going to get out of it?

And so I do think we're still going to see a fight unfold. And Donald Trump's endorsement -- while it helps Jim Jordan with a faction of the party, I think it could hurt him with a few other members of the party.

HUNT: Yeah. So I think the central difference, Shelby, between the moderates and the -- we call them the hardliners. It's hard to even come up with a name for these eight that were willing to just sink Kevin McCarthy the way that they did.

But what I think has given an and empowered the Freedom Caucus, these hardliners kind of at these various iterations is that they have been willing to break all of the norms. They have been willing to say yes, we're going to mess around with the debt ceiling. Yes, we're going to just shut down the government not to get what we want.

Whereas, the moderates are much more focused on governing and they feel like that's their imperative. And in some ways, it's given them less power in some of these really down and dirty fights because they've wanted to say OK, I'd rather just avoid the chaos. How much do you think that plays in here? I mean, the moderates would really have to be willing to draw a hard line in the sand and potentially, cause a prolonged fight or more days and weeks without a speaker if they want to say, like, you've got to listen to us and not -- and not the hardliners? And I'm just not sure they're going to be willing to do that.

TALCOTT: No. You make a really good point and I -- and I think that's a completely fair argument, right? The whole thing with this Republican Party has been there has been all of this drama because of a very small number of Republicans.

And so, if you have these sort of centrist Republicans who have been complaining about this the entire time, then turn around and do that same thing, right, everyone's going to say well, you were just saying the exact opposite when it was the hard-right faction of the Republican Party doing it. Why is it any different when you're now holding up being able to get bills done and get things done and move Congress forward?


And so, that's the ultimate question and we'll see does the -- do these kind of centrists end up saying OK, listen, the majority of the Republican Party is for Jim Jordan -- fine. Let's wash our hands with this. Let's move on. Let's govern. We'll see.

HUNT: Do you think, very briefly, Democrats are going to regret throwing out Kevin McCarthy if we end up with speaker Jim Jordan?

TALCOTT: It's a good question. I mean, that -- and I think we talked about this a few weeks ago, right? If Kevin McCarthy gets ousted who is going to replace him? Is it going to be somebody that Democrats feel they can work with or is it going to be somebody that's going to be more difficult to work with? I have a feeling Jim Jordan could be the latter for Democrats.

HUNT: I think -- I think that feeling is correct and on point.

Shelby Talcott, of Semafor, thank you very much for joining us on a Friday morning. Have a good weekend.

TALCOTT: Thanks.

HUNT: All right. We've got some legal briefs this morning.

ABC News is reporting that former President Trump allegedly discussed sensitive information about U.S. nuclear submarines with a member of this Mar-a-Lago resort. Sources told ABC that the member, Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt, shared the information with, quote, "more than a dozen foreign officials, his own employees, and a handful of journalists."

A Trump spokesperson says ABC's report, quote, "Lacks proper context."

We've got no comment, so far, from Pratt. Former President Trump is dropping a lawsuit against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. That happened Thursday, just four days before Trump was to sit for a deposition in the case. Trump sued Cohen for $500 million, claiming that he breached his professional duties as attorney by speaking out in the media.

Cohen, for his part, tells me this morning that the case is, quote, "Nothing more than a retaliatory intimidation tactic."

And lawyers defending conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell and his company, My Pillow, moved Thursday to withdraw from the case. Why? They say Lindell has racked up millions in unpaid legal bills in the $1.3 billion defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems.


MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: We -- I had -- we have to -- I can't pay the lawyers. We can't pay. There's no money left to pay them.


HUNT: Lindell says he still refuses to settle with Dominion. He says not in a million years. Looks like he's going to need new lawyers to do that.

And rescue operations are finished this morning in the Ukrainian city of Hroza. Now, the clean-up begins following one of the deadliest attacks of the war so far. You are looking at pictures from this morning of the aftermath. Officials say a Russian missile strike killed at least 52 people, including a child.

And CNN's Nic Robertson is live for us with this in London. Nic, really hard to look at these pictures. What do we know about this attack?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, it was devastating. This village, a pre-war population about 330. The population now or just before this attack took place, about 150. So, 52 people dead. That's a massive toll on that tiny village.

And I think when you look at the number of people injured -- just six people injured -- that also tells you the nature of the strike -- big, fast, and deadly. It hit a cafe and store while the villagers were attending the funeral for one of the villagers there.

Not clear why the Russians targeted it but look, the missile that they used is a high-precision, highly expensive Iskander short-range ballistic missile. What does that really mean? Three million dollars. Russia doesn't throw those around without good reason. It's not like the cheap drones that it throws up a dozen or so of every night.

This one had a specific mission. In this case, it was to wipe out the lives of all those villagers.

The missile itself weighs about 8,000 pounds and it's got about 1,000 pounds of explosives packed into it. And that's why these images we're looking at right now show so much destruction. We were looking at aerial pictures earlier on today and you could see the whole of the center of this village completely flattened.

What we heard from President Zelenskyy yesterday was the only way to combat this kind of strike is to get better air defenses on Ukraine, and that's kind of reflected this morning. There have been airstrikes in Kharkiv not so far away. Twenty-seven people injured there; a 10- year-old boy killed in that strike. And more strikes in the south of the country.

So this is indicative of what Russia can do. It's got the power and it's got the precision to find targets but it's just so unclear why they would target so many civilians attending a funeral -- Kasie.

HUNT: Yeah, just really horrific.

Nic Robertson, thank you very much for that report and all that context you provided. I really appreciate it.

All right, President Biden building more Mexico border wall. Why he says he has to, next. Plus, Florida's Ron DeSantis now campaigning on what he calls one of Trump's broken promises.



DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But we will build the wall. Mexico is going to pay for the wall.


HUNT: There it is -- a famous or infamous political promise, depending on which political tribe you are a member of.

Trump never finished the job. The U.S.-Mexico border is about 1,900 miles long. Four hundred fifty-eight miles of new and replacement wall was built on his watch. But as for Mexico paying for it, here's Republican rival Chris Christie.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the guy who said he was going to build a big, beautiful wall across the entire border and Mexico hasn't paid the first peso towards it.


HUNT: Trump did direct some $16 billion taxpayer dollars to the project -- Congress. Now the Biden administration is responsible for spending it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: Hmm. That was candidate Joe Biden in 2020.

This week, though, the Biden administration said it will waive 26 laws to build additional border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley. Many of those laws are intended to protect things like clean air, water, and endangered species.


Here is the president yesterday.


BIDEN: Border wall money was appropriated for the border wall. I tried to get them to reappropriate -- to redirect that money. They didn't. They wouldn't. And in the meantime, there's nothing under the law other than they have to use the money for what it was appropriated for. I can't stop that.

REPORTER: Do you believe the border wall works?



HUNT: So the president saying there, essentially, that his hands are tied.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll from last week says just 23 percent of Americans approve of Biden's handling of immigration, while 62 percent disapprove.

Then there is Ron DeSantis, also running against Donald Trump. Three times in the past week the Republican hopeful turned back the clock to 2016, reviving Trump's failed pledge and focusing on the Mexico part.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said, with respect to build the wall and have Mexico pay for it. He actually dismissed it. He said, "There is no way you could have done that. Mexico's just not going to give us money. What are you talking about?" He said that. That was his core promise in 2016. And so, one, that bothered me because, wait a minute, you go around saying it and then do --

But, two, you actually can get Mexico to pay for it. You impose fees on the remittances that people send back to Mexico. He could have done that -- he didn't.

Every one of my promises I delivered. I'm even going to deliver on Trump's promises for him. He couldn't do it, I'm going to do it.


HUNT: OK, let's bring in Daniel Strauss, CNN national politics reporter. Daniel, good morning. Happy Friday.


HUNT: There's a lot to kind of get through there and I want to get to Ron DeSantis in a second. But let's start by focusing in on the White House and what's going on here. Because -- I mean, this is a pretty explicit situation where you have a campaign promise. I'm not going to add another foot to this. And now, here we have more feet being added to the border wall.

This is a tough position for the White House to be in, especially when you layer in the politics of -- I mean, blue state governors and mayors calling the White House and saying this is a huge problem. You need to do a better job dealing with the migrants that are coming in.

STRAUSS: Yeah. And look, this is something that Democrats are struggling with right now as the Republican primary field is competing with each other to move farther and farther to the right. There is a concern among Democrats that if the discussion in the 2024 arena pivoted more fully to just immigration they would further have their hands tied because there's not really a good consensus bumper sticker argument -- a response among Democrats right now on border security.

And it's like you said. When you have governors, like in Illinois, or mayors in Chicago conceding in one way or another that immigration is becoming a problem and that they are going to go down to the border, it underscores that it's a real concern right now and it's something that Democrats need to address more fully.

HUNT: It's going to be a real -- a real problem for them in the general election. It's already a problem for the president. You can see it -- you can see it in the numbers.

And honestly, you could see it in this answer that Karine Jean-Pierre was pressed -- the White House press secretary was pressed by Fox News about this in the briefing room yesterday. Take a look.


PETER DOOCY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: He said there will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration. So, something changed. What?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You want us to break the law? Is that what you want? You want us to not comply with the law?

DOOCY: I'm not -- I'm asking about if he was (INAUDIBLE).

JEAN-PIERRE: But you want -- but you want us to not comply with the law. You want us to not be an administration that follows the rule of law.

DOOCY: You guys do this --

(END VIDEO CLIP) HUNT: So, clearly, some tension there. She's basically saying look, the law says we have to spend this money on this. We can't spend it on anything else, so we're doing that.

But, I mean, what's not mentioned there is that they're actually waiving a bunch of laws to allow this to happen. I think that there is a lot kind of going on under the scenes there.

What did you make under the -- under the surface there? What did you make of that exchange?

STRAUSS: It's pretty -- it's pretty rare that you see a press secretary get that combative with a very basic journalistic question.

But look, it's something -- it underscores how defensive this White House is being right now. And that even though they are saying -- they're accepting money -- federal funds that have been allocated here, they still don't have a solid, easy explanation for the situation. And again, it's one that's a sensitive topic for this White House and for Democrats right now.

HUNT: Yeah -- no. I mean, it's -- there's -- they say that the wall doesn't work but if the barriers are erected and they do work, it could actually help mitigate a problem for them politically. But, of course, they have to kind of thread this needle on the rhetoric around it.

Let's talk for a second about Ron DeSantis who obviously has upped his attacks against Donald Trump. Now, he is with Trump on this basic issue that the wall should be built and that Mexico should pay for it. Donald Trump tried to get Mexico to pay for it and now the way you hear him talk about it is that well, actually, that's pretty impossible. Because he tried to get the apparatus of government to make Mexico pay for the wall and ran up against all of the various problems.


DeSantis' argument here is he's saying oh, let's put fees on remittances that people send to Mexico. I think we should just be clear here that if you're doing that, you're actually getting Americans who are sending money to Mexico to pay for the wall.

STRAUSS: Yeah. There is never, ever going to be any -- I mean, we go back to 2016 on this and the argument was that Donald Trump could somehow get Mexico to pay for the wall. That has never materialized in any form and it's never been a solution over two administrations of differing parties.

Yet, at the same time here, we have, in the Republican primary field, candidates like Ron DeSantis pushing farther and farther to the right on border security and the immigration policy. It's an arms race right now and I don't expect that to change because this primary field is not going to get substantially smaller anytime soon. And the -- among Republicans, there is no appetite for a more moderate approach on immigration or border security. HUNT: Yeah. I mean, it's really -- it remains a litmus test issue for them.

Daniel, I mean, looking ahead into the weekend we've got -- in the next week, we've got Donald Trump weighing in in the speaker's race. How do you think that plays in the context of 2016? It seems to kind of further underscore Trump's, frankly, frontrunner status in the race.

STRAUSS: Twenty-twenty-four.

Um, yeah. Look, I'm a little surprised because not more than two days ago there was murmurings about him running for speaker or being nominated for speaker. Clearly, that was something that was not going to happen. But it really underscores how comfortable Trump feels with a strong ally in the position of being caucus leader and House Speaker in Congress. And that was the situation and the relationship that he had, at least initially, with Kevin McCarthy.

I'm -- look, I mean, there -- it's pretty insidery right now and intricate. You have Steve Scalise who, for many years, was considered sort of the more conservative alternative to any of the previous Republican speakers.


STRAUSS: But now there's -- the -- it's not that clean-cut. And --

HUNT: Far from it.

STRAUSS: -- for a while now, Jim Jordan has been viewed as sort of this very, very hardworking, solid conservative that's palatable to a range of the Republican Party.

So this is not -- this is not an outlandish endorsement by Trump.

HUNT: No, it's definitely not.

All right, Daniel Strauss. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. Have a great weekend, my friend.

STRAUSS: Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Coming up next, Hillary Clinton speaking out on the chaos on Capitol Hill. The exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



HUNT: For the first time in 346 days, just shy of a year, the Chicago Bears have won a regular season football game.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, good morning, Kasie.

You know, the Bears -- they had lost a franchise record 14 straight games heading into last night against the Commanders. But, hey, that streak is finally over. And a big thanks to D.J. Moore for ending the streak. He caught eight passes from Justin Fields. He took three of them for touchdowns.

The Bears -- they just dominated the first half of this one. They led 27-3 at the break. Then Fields and Moore -- they put the game away with this touchdown here in the fourth quarter. Moore, 230 yards receiving. And the Bears win 40-20.


JUSTIN FIELDS, CHICAGO BEARS QUARTERBACK: It's a feeling that you don't want to end, to be honest with you. So, we're just going to take that to an end and hopefully, we can come back next week and have the same feeling after the game. But, I mean, that's a -- that's a feeling that you just want to have after every game and a feeling that we haven't had in a long time. So it was -- it was -- it was good.


SCHOLES: Now, the Bears taking the field with heavy hearts last night after legendary linebacker Dick Butkus passed away earlier in the day. And before the game, the teams honored the football Hall of Famer with a moment of silence. Butkus considered one of the greatest defensive players in the league history, making the Pro Bowl in eight of his nine seasons before a knee injury forced him to retire at the age of 31.

Butkus enjoyed a long second career as a sports broadcaster, actor, and pitchman. Dick Butkus was 80 years old.

All right, Team USA Basketball, meanwhile, getting yet another superstar commitment for next year's Paris Olympics. Reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid says he's going to play for the team. The 29-year-old said he picked the U.S. because it's where he lives and it's where his son was born. Embiid was born in Cameroon and holds dual American and French citizenship.

Now, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry also said this week that they aim to be a part of the U.S. squad, which will be chasing a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal.

And speaking of LeBron, he's getting set for his 21st season and for the first time in his career, he's the oldest player in the NBA.


REPORTER: LeBron James is the oldest player in the NBA. Your reaction?


(END VIDEO CLIP) [06:00:00]

SCHOLES: Yeah. So, Kasie, LeBron going to be 39 years old this December. And he's the oldest player yet and still one of the best. Just incredible.

HUNT: Uh, yeah, just amazing. It's crazy to me to be 39 and the oldest at anything.

Andy, last time we talked, you said young teams don't win the World Series. I'm going to the O's game this weekend. Good luck to your Astros, maybe? Maybe I'll see you there?

SCHOLES: Good luck -- good luck to your O's as well. Hey, here is hoping, Kasie, that we meet each other in the American League Championship Series. Let's just hope for that.

HUNT: Love it. Love it.

All right, Andy Scholes. Thank you very much.

SCHOLES: All right.

HUNT: Have a great weekend.

Thank you all for joining us. I am Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN THIS MORNING" starts right now.